An emeritus general authority, Elder F. Burton Howard, addressed prospective missionaries in the Wilkinson Center recently. He shared personal experiences that taught him about faith and aligning his will with God’s.
When he was 6, Elder Howard said, he prayed for God to help him fly.
“The result was always the same,” he said. “The law of gravity prevailed and the floor was hard.”
Elder Howard said it was around this time in his life he started to wonder about the relationship between faith and receiving answers to prayer.
Over the years, he had more experiences that taught him about the nature of faith. Once such experience occurred while he was serving in the Uruguay Montevideo Mission. He and his companion went to a nearby hospital to give a blessing to one of the sick and less active members of the Church.
“I had never given a priesthood blessing before and neither had my new convert companion,” he said. “We laid our hands on her head and when it came to the moment of pronouncing the blessing, I couldn’t find the words to promise an unconscious woman I’d never met, that through her faith she would be healed. So I mumbled something and we went home. Two days later she died.”
Another mission experience, this time with himself as the one in need of a blessing, caused Elder Howard to question his faith to heal and be healed.
“Three elders laid their hands on my head and gave me a blessing of restoration of health and strength,” he said. “Nothing happened. I knew the Lord could heal me, but he hadn’t.”
During these experiences and others throughout his life, Elder Howard said he often wondered if outcomes would have been different had he had more faith. Determined to find the formula of faith, he turned to serious study, prayer and fasting.
Elder Howard said it took him a long time, but eventually he learned he needed to align his will with the Lord’s.
“I wanted to be a magician and pull miraculous things out of my hat,” he said. “But I realized [the scriptures] described a totally different kind of faith — a faith that I didn’t have, a faith that I’d never thought about before — the faith to be submissive.”
Elder Howard said he learned that faith enables man to act on the Lord’s will.
“Over time, I came to understand that faith is a gift that enables us to do what the Lord expects of us,” he said. “It isn’t a tool we use to get the Lord to do what we want.”
Elder Howard said we need to be as earnest in our personal pleas as we are in submitting to the will of the Lord.
“The Lord will answer in his own way and in his own time,” he said. “For it is his power, not ours — he is the Master.”